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Growing its global mix, Chicago tech incubator adds Brazilian startup

Growing its global mix, Chicago tech incubator adds Brazilian startup

by DAVID BAKER, University Technology Park, IIT

This month, we’re excited to welcome Virtual.PYXIS, a Brazilian-based startup focusing on computer-aided engineering (CAE) applications for the aerospace and automotive industries. They’re just the latest company to take advantage of our International Soft Landing Program, designed to provide startups with a gateway to North American markets via Chicago.

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When I’m talking with innovators from other countries, I find there’s strong interest in Chicago. Easy access via O’Hare and Midway airports, proximity to major research institutions, and our area’s high concentration of financial, legal and accounting services are all major attractors. So is the city’s high-quality workforce and the presence of burgeoning tech clusters in life sciences, energy, software, and materials.

With all these advantages to offer, companies are intrigued to learn more. We make sure they know about IIT’s extensive research and academic resources and the comprehensive support we offer to help them make a fast start when they move here.

Given University Technology Park's relatively small size — with lab and office space for about 30 startups — you might wonder why we devote a large share of time and resources to building global partnerships. Since there are thousands of innovators here in the U.S. looking for space and support, why don’t we focus closer to home?

It’s simple. The pursuit of bold new ideas is a global game. It’s always been true, as any veteran researcher or innovator will tell you. But the international exchange of resources and support is moving faster than ever, and we’re committed to being part of it.

Our goal is not only to bring innovation and economic growth to Chicago and the State of Illinois, but also to foster the breakthrough concepts that will solve the world’s most pressing problems. Right now, our startups are working on solutions for energy efficiency, global food supplies, healthcare challenges, and much more. In our view, they need the support that only a global innovation network can provide.

When we work internationally, the value flows both ways. Whether we’re attracting resources for our own startups, lending a hand to others here in Chicago or offering support to overseas innovators, we’re getting the job done. 

In November, the Association of University Research Parks named IIT's University Technology Park as "the #1 emerging tech park in the world." Above, the author (right) accepts the award from AURP VP Greg Hyer of the UW-Madison.

In November, the Association of University Research Parks named IIT's University Technology Park as "the #1 emerging tech park in the world." Above, the author (right) accepts the award from AURP VP Greg Hyer of the UW-Madison.

Last year, UTP hosted groups from Italy, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Bosnia-Herzegovina, each wanting to learn more about Chicago’s tech scene. We also met with innovators in Madrid, Moscow, and Lithuania, showcasing Chicago as a tech destination and building connections with universities, incubators and research parks for mutual support. We signed new agreements with parks in Turin, Tuscany, and Kaunas, Lithuania.

We can’t wait to see our new colleagues from São Paulo this month and, soon afterward, another potential partner from France. If you know of innovators who can benefit from our soft landing resources or would like to visit our incubator, please feel free to contact me.

The author is Executive Director of University Technology Park at Illinois Institute of Technology, where he serves as lead mentor to more than 20 growing startups in life sciences, clean energy, smart grid, materials, and digital technologies. He can be reached via e-mail at bakerd@iit.edu.

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